Reality Check

There was a kind of crying down in her throat as she sat there and slowly revealed to me the hidden past.

Through seven years of marriage, my mother and my dad tried unsuccessfully to have a child. They wanted a baby so much. When my dad returned from World War I, they decided finally to adopt. It took almost another two years before they were able to do so.

In 1922, working through Portland’s Waverly Home for abandoned babies and orphans, they were successful. They brought me home at the age of two months. I became Willard Byron Mayo.

Birth mother and birth father—unknown.


As she talked, softly and haltingly, I listened intently to this loving woman … a battered woman … who was the single most important influence on my life. Racing through my mind were the childhood memories of our jumbled life together. And I thought of my dad and Eleanor, my grandfather Jim Dewey and grandmother Josephine, Phoebe and George Littreal, Noah Martell, Adam and Mary Mayo, Louis Martell and the others. They were all a part of the fabric of my life. And in my mind I knew they would always be my family—-my given heritage. Nobody-—Wentworth or anybody else—could ever take that away from me.

I put my arms around my mother, trying to comfort her. I told her that I loved her very much. And I swore that Wentworth’s vindictive disclosure meant nothing— nothing at all.

That’s the way it has remained, throughout my life.


From that night on, my mother manifested to Wentworth—how can I say it—pure contempt.

He moved out of the flat, but his drunken harassment didn’t end there. He called my mother late one night, asking her to forgive him. He told her that he didn’t mean to hurt her—then he ranted on about why it wasn’t his fault. And he ended the conversation by calling her a string of ugly names.

On two successive nights, he even stood in the middle of the street out front, yelling up at our windows, alternately pleading and cursing from below.

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